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December 12, 2005


Sometimes the Seattle RE Store field crew will go pretty far out of its way to
do a worthwhile salvage job. Lately we've been spending at least one night
a week down in Lacey, WA, 90 minutes southwest of Seattle. It's cheaper
and more efficient to stay down there rather than fight the traffic back and
forth every day. We're salvaging Saint Martin's University's 3,000+ seat
NCAA arena, a 34-section bleacher set built in 1968. There's about 4 miles
of good fir boards comprising the benches, footboards, and risers, each
16 - 20 feet long, plus a couple hundred sheets of varnished plywood
backing on the mezzanine. On average, it takes 4 people 3 hours to
disassemble, load out, and clean up a single section. Disassembly
entails loosening hundreds of nuts, removing the boards, prying
out bolts, and then taking down the sturdy and very heavy steel
. Some of the boards are clad with masonite on both
sides. Those are going to a mill to have one side skinned to expose
raw wood and add value. The steel is tossed--loudly--into a 20-foot
metal bin to be scrapped. We'll probably fill a dozen bins, each
holding several tons of steel to be recycled. It's heavy, repetitive
work. The bleachers are being replaced by a plastic, motorized set.
Lighter and easier to operate, I wonder how much, if any of it, will
                 find a second life after it wears out. Maybe by then good
                                    plastic will be as scarce as good wood is today.